Editorial Content - this article has been written by one of our freelance editors. It dives deep into the author's perspective on the current state of the mobile gaming market.
Mobile games have always remained inside of this one specific bubble that just cannot be touched. They’re essentially hyper-casual games, yet they still have all the nuances of modern triple AAA games that make them unique. They have their own wonderfully unique art styles, their own beautiful soundtracks and some of the most unique gameplay mechanics and loops that you’ll find out there. It’s not an easy feat creating a mobile game from the ground up, however it’s definitely much less difficult as compared to a game like God of War, or Halo. For the most part, no one thought of mobile games as more than that though. They were always just games that you play in your free time.
That’s the meaning of a hyper-casual game, something you can just start playing any time that you’re not doing something else. Yet in 2021, mobile games are rising up to be one of the most competitive markets out there. It’s not even a question of quality, or quantity within them, they are just massively becoming one of the most profound gaming experiences out there.
My curiosity for mobile games extended this year due to the ever-evolving nature of the app store and the play store. I’ve found myself swarmed by some of the most exhilarating multiplayer games, some of the most fun and relaxing hyper-casual games and some incredibly nuanced story-telling experiences that you can only find within indie games. In this shifting nature of the market, can we safely proclaim that mobile games are moving away from their formulaic hyper-casual form to something more unique?
Are they actually getting better, or are the developers just fooling us in a much more dignified manner? To understand the evolving nature of mobile games, I’ve conducted a survey in which I’ve managed to figure some these things about. So let’s discuss them more in depth.
HYPER-CASUAL GAMES AND THE INCREASE OF QUALITY
The increase in the quantity of these hyper-casual games has had a large impact on the player base when it comes to mobile gaming. These games started out as poorly designed, 2-minute sensations that you’d spend 10 minutes playing on the train ride home. However, they have evolved into something a bit different. They’ve gone from being these train-wrecks, to addictive experiences that you can spend countless hours into. Games such as Flappy Bird, which everyone played for less than day and deleted right afterwards have vanished.
Now, we have games like Jump Helix, and Rise Up and Crossy Road, which have become insanely popular due to the quality of their gameplay. They are unique experiences with extremely infectious gameplay, and players have essentially swarmed to these games in hordes. They haven’t lost their player counts in long whiles, whereas previous iterations of hyper-casual games have released and died within a few days’ time.
This increase in quality isn’t something that just happened overnight, this is due to a long process of evaluation and experimentation, which led up to the increase in quality. Every single game that is made these days, is tested with a live audience. The quality check, and assure everything is intact and working in order to provide us with a unique and engaging experience. After years of suffering from this loop of fast-paced, cheap and hurriedly made games we finally figured out that the key is ensuring a higher standard rather than an incentive to increased quantity. It is not a hard thing to make mobile games, yet it’s also very difficult to make sure that your games are up to spark and better than the competition. This is why the mobile game industry has developed in such a way, and has created hyper-casual games that we enjoy and play relatively more.
MOBILE GAMES WITH STORIES?!
For a long while, we’ve only heard of profound story-telling in games to only be limited to platforms with powerful hardware. In 2021, there’s more and more content in games involving rich, character driven and deep storylines being released for the world. In the past few years alone, we’ve gotten games like Red Dead Redemption 2, The Last of Us Part 2, Uncharted The Lost Legacy, Detroit Become Human, Ghost of Tsushima and Life is Strange. These are narrative driven, story rich games that have memorable characters yet most of those aren’t available on mobile platforms. However, there are still story driven games that you can play on the mobile platform of your choice.
In 2021, we’ve got more than enough options for story-based video games within the play store and app store. They’re not your usual story games though, they’re different experiences when compared to their PC, PlayStation and Xbox counter parts. There are cinematic games from Telltale and Dontnod that you can play on your phones, games such as Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Life is Strange, The Wolf Among Us are all playable on mobile devices. Then we’ve got games that are much more gameplay driven, for example Oxenfree, Six Guns, Broken Age, Superbrothers, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas and Bully.
Some of these even have very large open worlds for you to explore, with a plethora of side-quests and characters. If you think that the graphical fidelity in these games won’t be up to par with the games on other platforms, then you could check out Leo’s Fortune, which looks absolutely breathtaking. Then you have gaems such as Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, which is one of the most emotional, fantastical and beautiful games that have released in the history of video games. The evolution is very visible, from being limited to games such as Pokemon Go, to playing story-telling experiences that change you as a person.
THE COMPETITIVE NATURE OF ONLINE MOBILE GAMES
Now this is the topic that I want to speak about the most. The insanely high increase in competitive games on mobile platforms. It is one of the most engaging things in recent years, the way mobile games have shifted from just being casual experiences to being people’s lives, and quite literally their livelihoods. I’ve recently been addicted to Brawl Stars, which is one of the most insanely fun games to play on your own. However, I’ll have you know that Brawl Stars is also one of the most competitive games out there. It consists of almost 50 different playable characters, with more being added every season to the game.
This makes sure that the game is always constantly evolving, and the it ensures that the competitive nature of the game is always up to a certain standard. This is a mobile game that has managed to turn into one of the biggest E-Sports titles in the world, and that is what I absolutely respect about the evolution online mobile games have had. There’s other MOBA’s like it too, such as Arena of Valor and Mobile Legends also have huge E-Sports scenes.
That’s not the only game you can find in the competitive mobile game pool. PUBG Mobile has by far the biggest E-Sports scene in the world, right up there with League of Legends on PC. It’s a massive achievement for developer Tencent, who have poured so many resources into it. In fact, PUBG Mobile is practically the most popular game in the world. The battle royale has become this way over the past 4-5 years, so that definitely means that the demand for games such as this has always been super high. This is why there are dozens of games like this; from Free Fire, PUBG Mobile, PUBG New State to games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty: Mobile. These are all some of the biggest shooters out there, and have an insanely high demand on the mobile game markets.
SO, ARE MOBILE GAMES ACTUALLY GETTING BETTER?
The need for evolution is always what keeps us moving forward and helps us improve. That is exactly the case with video games, we’ve gone from 2D, 8-bit graphics to lifelike experiences with characters that look even more real than real life. Well mobile games haven’t reached that standard yet, either due to hardware limitations or due to the technology, they are making up for it in creativity and improvement. We are reaching further and further into the rabbit hole, that is enhancement in video games.
It’s something that we’ve always witnessed in the industry, and while mobile games are a relatively new platform for gaming, they sure are a quick evolving one. The technology that we find in mobile games, is nowhere near compared to the technology we find on games that are on PC, PlayStation and Xbox. However, the creativity and uniqueness of these games is what defines them.
The accessibility is also part of what makes mobile games so relevant, everyone in the 21st century has a smart phone. That is the main reason why mobile games have become a huge market, as we can download games on our phones within minutes and start playing them. Not to mention, the portable nature of the smartphones is what keeps us engaged within the games, as we can log in anytime we want and jump into the games. More than ever, players are looking for quick and easy access to video games.
We look for cheaper alternatives to PC and PlayStation gaming, and we find those in mobile games add subscription services such as the Xbox gamepass, and Netflix gaming now. With more and more content for players to jump into, the need for spending the mountains of money has decreased.
So to answer the question, are mobile games actually getting better? Yes, they are. Just like games on the arcade evolved into something more contemporary overtime, just like games went from looking like pixels, to becoming living, breathing worlds. Mobile games are also developing and growing, evolving into something more enhanced. These games have gone from being poorly designed, time killers two games that you can spend a lot of time on, money on and gain something from.
Whether that is satisfaction, a profound sense of storytelling, or a competitive drive that can sometimes even lead up to real life money; that all depends on the player. Though in simple words, mobile games have definitely evolved and become much better than they were as they started.
In conclusion, the market for mobile games is larger than ever now. We have games that cater to every single player’s expectation and requirement. There is a game for every player, from hyper casual experiences, to narrative driven, profound storytelling experiences and games that will satiate your drive for a thrilling competitive experience. It has created a huge number of jobs for developers, and aspiring programmers.
The number of benefits that we are have from mobile gaming, are much larger than what we have from the gaming industry in general. The accessibility that comes with mobile gaming, due to the portable nature of cell phones and with the minimal requirements for players to just jump into their favorite games. There’s a place for everyone within the industry.
When there wasn’t much to play, players took anything that they got. We latched on to poorly made games, and enjoyed them as if there wasn’t anything else we could spend time on. However, the scope and scale we expect is much different now. Video games have become much more accessible, much more creative and a lot more competitive. The industry has grown in many different ways and so has the player base. This is why ensuring an increase in quality is vital to a developer success.
That is what we are seeing from game developers in 2021, it’s not just that mobile games are increasing their quality but also games in general. Sure, there are still poorly designed and hurriedly made games out there on the market, however they are suffering from their lack of passion and creativity in developing their games.
Mobile games are just showing us, that they can be something much more and much larger than we expect them to be. We expect that the new mobile devices that are coming out will eventually have hardware that can run anything at top quality. This shows us that all the chips are off the table, and puts things into perspective that enhanced quality in not just graphics and gameplay, but the uniqueness and creativity is a must when designing games in 2021. Hardware limitations will soon no longer be an issue, and if they are, creativity will always persist to ensure that players get the content they truly deserve.